Functionalism is a theory of consciousness that emerged to oppose the prevailing notions of mind-body dualism that dominated psychology until the 19th century. The theory emphasizes the interactive nature of body and mind as well as the dynamic nature of the stream of consciousness. While functionalism is not a single scholar’s creation, William James, the father of American psychology, was its most prominent advocate. William James approach focuses on the purpose and function of the mind and behavior rather than the structures of the mind, making functionalism a key paradigm shift in the history of Psychology.
According to Brunner, mental states are functional because they aid individuals in their attempt to adapt to the environment. Perhaps the principal feature of functionalism is the claim that the causal relations among the mental processes characterize the mental state. In addition, William James argues that scholars must understand mental events in relation to the sensory inputs from which they originate and behavioral outputs they produce. Opposing the theory of structuralism, he argues that scholars cannot study mental elements in isolation because they are a function of an ongoing stream of thought. Consciousness, argues William James, is a function that enables individuals engage in self-regulation.
Individuals use functionalism every day to make their goals achievable. For example, students modify their learning style to accomplish their goal every semester. The diverse adaptations stretch from the mode of study to the duration of individual preparation time, but depend on the level of subject involvement and mastery. While some tests require students to recall unit details, others test the concept application. To accomplish their mission, students need to adapt to the environmental demands. This adjustment is consistent with the views that functionalists put forward in support for functionalism as a school of thought. In addition, the Darwinian theory of evolution, which had a profound influence on William James, supports the concept.
In conclusion, William James theory of functionalism focuses on the function of the mental status rather than its structures. It supports the argument that the significance of all mental processes and consciousness is based on their functions rather than the components. As a result, unsettling the functions reduces the ability of an organism to survive. Although Wundt, the father of structuralism, dismisses William James work as mere literature with no significance, functionalism inspires its opponents as much as it inspires the proponents. It uses pragmatism as the foundation for stimulating practical applications of psychology.